Poetry Blog by John E Marks

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For Kassia: a bold and beautiful Byzantine poet

The love of adultery is a sin of man

Devised to ruin the goodness of woman,

It is a temptation that must accept

The full springs of your tears.

As you, who bring the rain to wash us clean,

And to make us fresh again,

Bow down to the sighs of my weeping heart.

You altered the realm of being

By your incomprehensible incarnation.

And now the followers of a desert seer

Dism...

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An inception into art

The clear gaze of another day
Takes me wherever I do not want to go
Up hill, down dale, tumbling a-go-go.
He is my best friend, since I was a boy,
The wave of his kind eyes
As he says goodbye, his thin hair, his worry lines,
His photos, removed
Under the wings of the laughing birds
I comment upon what is past and gone
He  focuses upon the afternoon moon
I drink beer, he smokes some skunk
...

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When the poet ceases singing

 

When the poet ceases singing
There’s an end to everything:
Birds in the trees, music,
Tones and timbre, plangent and deep,
Tempests flare in the mind of man
Foreshadow that terrible realisation
That you too have followed this same cliff path
On nights of luminosity and in the darkness-drear
Of night. Mother, father, lover, friend
Swoon towards the moon in triumph
Or despair. Or ...

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Tainted

She doesn't look, she sees
The black hole. Heading for her.
Scared of unfounded stories
Circulating in her head -
A brain-tumoured-tainted, untrained structure -
Cells multiply, you see, wildly
Deep sea squalls fling
Seas against concrete. Defences breached
By unaccounted time. Rhymes come & go
In this muddled mind of mine, multiples the arrhythmia
Of this, my broken heart, apart from th...

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Buckle*

Photo by Flo Meixner on Unsplash

“Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?” GM Hopkins, ‘Terrible sonnets’ 

On this flaming day in June, such beautiful pagan mountains surround
Your uncertain presence in this bastion of the Jesuits.
I overheard disquisitions concerning the nuts and bolts of poetry
Whilst your real presence crept into my he...

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THE VOICE OF DEATH, THE VOICE OF LOVE & THE VOICE OF ART

A whole life spent out of kilter
Every day out of whack
So when the storm hit
And everything went kerflooey
I was ill-prepared.
There’s no going back.
….
Now, if a little dreaming is dangerous
Is the cure to dream more?
O! I wish you were here:
On this sad, autumn day
When all the words
Just drained away

Leaving me aghast.
With nothing to say.

……

This inner city cul-de-sac is lit...

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poetry is...

 “Poetry is the journal of the sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air. Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable. Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away.” — Carl Sandburg, from The Atlantic, March 1923

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Inside Out

There’s an end to everything:
Birds in the trees, music, family. friends,
Plangent, too deep to keep,
Tempests flare in the mind of man
Foreshadowing those terrible realisations
That we too have followed this same cliff path
Guided by nightly luminosity, stuck in the sheer darkness
Of the day. When mother, father, lover, friend
Have turned away and swooned towards the moon in triumph
Or d...

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BEGGAR

 

Baffling how I came to be a pauper, he thought,
An ex-serviceman, me, still with an upright back.
Thing is: I never really arrived home. Did I?.
Not a real home. Everything had changed.
Belfast, The Falklands, Belize, Operation Desert Storm
Are with me every day.

Like many men who wore the uniform he's reluctant to see a doctor
“I’ll be reet” he says, “after a bit.”
Where he ser...

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Fear in a handful of dust

 

Words cannot echo mood,
It’s impossible to convey
The tingling numbnesses
Of the grief I felt today;

The semi-detached daze
Of continuing depression;
The tight closing-in of the dark,
That stark foreshadowing of art..

The fear that accompanies
All that  I do,
Meanders like an ox-bow lake,
Can take years to breach the gate
To the dangerous flood-tide of suicide..

Depress...

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Questioning?

The wind outside my window
His soul alive just by my chair
A friend you trust implicitly,
A lover who's not there?

A reckoning, that’s obvious,
Tonight?

A memory that’s been falsified
A woman here today
An empty cot at eventide
Who'd say?.

This never-ending circle,
Beginning is the end,
The man who you once trusted,
A friend?

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SAD

“I know the life of the world as it is now is not living, it is a bad process of dying.” DH Lawrence

You both died
And I was broken for many, many years.
I can no longer hide from myself
Behind this screen of anonymity:
I have stood in empty spaces,
Walked along the winter beach
Stripped of everything except wind and sand and sea.
I have looked into the summer sky for your blue-blue eyes...

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Psychoanalysis

 

Photo by Edurne Chopeitia on Unsplash

 

In my cottage in the hills
I am immune to the world’s ills,
or so I like to think.
On evenings of freezing fog,
I throw another log on the fire
watch closely as the flames reach higher,
take another sip of whiskey
stroke the back of my young dog,
Who feels the spirits in the breeze,
pick my book up from the stone cold floor.
Reading ...

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Not forgot

As the light fades ever faster,
and the temperature dips
a foreboding grips
as I am recalled
to this dialogue with the dead
that continues in my head.
My grandfather, Jack, had his last pint of mild beer 
in this pub before
embarking for France in late summer 1914.
And his first one back in November 1918.
He remains forever known, never seen.
Now businessmen and women
sit playing with ...

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Day-of-the-dead

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

 

Colours blend in a staccato of sound. Synaesthesia's all around.
Underground: a steepling slide into unconsciousness.
Mixing senses, genders, dreams, moulding the male, it seems,
In this hat-trick-hubris-chit-chat mode women don’t grow old.
Poets bleed, speak-in-tongues, fiddle with their fingers, long
To compose the lyrics of a song.
Pain is ...

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Kicking leaves through dappled sunlight

Iraq's Christians 'close to extinction' after 2000 years. 

The British fell on the Somme, Verdun, Passchendaele,
Their luckier cousins long ago set off across the broad Atlantic
Convicts moved straight on to the antipodes
To the Swan River of Western Australia
Convict scum of the East End born to live again.
The ragged Scots, after Culloden
So many Irish everywhere in the Empire
After th...

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Love

You are my moment, as you read
Your eyes are full of tact, unembarrassed, laughing
And my dream is just of continuing.
We cannot add up or divide words, as we can numbers,
Yet,  humans can be equally intractable.
Friends die in the blinking of an eye.
You cannot eat your words
Nor can you précis feelings
But we can certainly stretch the truth
At a blooming, with our first tooth,
Or at  o...

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Elegy

WHO, when I scream, will hear me?
Maybe an angel? Or, a man of firmer regulation?
That’s the chance you take with screaming.
Could I put myself in the shoes of s/he
Who hears a scream at close quarters?
I fear not. It would take a leap of the heart
Which is beyond my means. Nobody comes to mind.
Nobody suddenly comes into my heart:

I pass into this stronger existence.
In this ancient ho...

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BAIT

 

Photo by Max LaRochelle on Unsplash

 

Words you don’t remember,
Winds rising in the sky,
Your soul, I poke with fortitude,
Sparks fly!

……

Coals flare into pettiness
Heat, suddenly, replete, golden sands,
Crystal brooks, silken lines, silver hooks.

……

Glimpsing what’s already there,
I begin to mount the stairs.
Who cares?

……..

A friend you trust implicitly,
...

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A Sufi saint prepares to meet his death

Goodbye my Sufi friends and lovers
Nothing now exists to connect you to me.
You are free. Tayyar can be trusted.

I will rise from the trap of this world
I will ask you to be my servant in paradise.
You are my dancer, I am your poet, we laugh
Together on days when I taste rain-drift-clouds.

When you sew I can watch you and fall in love
Again, I remember our first meeting, fleeting
Amon...

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Vestiges

Photo by Johan Mouchet on Unsplash

Arabic still spoken in Andalusian villages after 400 years of the inquisition,
Muslim houses in Bosnian villages,
with crosses on display, despite the threat of apostasy.

"And slay them wherever ye find them."

Morning fresh as one –
the Buddha knew –
the flowers of the valley
the grasses of the plain
shine with the unbidden light of heaven,
no...

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FOOTLOOSE

NO SEEKING OUT OF EMPTY-HEADED  OBLIVION HERE
I PREFER TO BREATHE, FEEL, SEE, HEAR, THINK, WRITE. 
DO NOT MEASURE OUT YOUR LIFE IN YEARS 
RISE TO THE ATTAINMENT OF THAT RAREST OF RARE ORCHIDS
LOVE:  WASHED BY ALL THE TEARS OF HEAVEN
LOVE: ALL THAT WILL SURVIVE OF US.
AMIDST ALL THE PASSINGNESS OF LIFE,
JOHNNY KEATS,  POET-PHYSICIAN,
BALANCED HIS SURFACE UNDERSTANDING OF ANATOMY
WITH HIS C...

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Blue remembered hills

My son, my brother and my dog

Are shades I follow in my dreams.

They offer me swift glancing gleams,

Of all that is, not all that seems.

 

That hidden fountain of delight

That shines again, just out of sight,

That promised land, of sweet content,

That land where time is safely spent

 

Beneath the skies and stars of heaven,

Where every blemish is forgiven,

Where ...

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A Blessing

Brother Sun and Sister Moon
Shine on the people of this world.
Let them recall the smells of spring
On cold and drear November days.

And let them hear the baby’s cry,
That all the hounds of hell defy,
And give them all the boons of love –
For love is really all we are –

The tiny gestures — the glance, the word –
That will in memory recur.
And deep amidst the fears of night
Bring a h...

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Federico del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús García Lorca

"As I have not worried to be born, I do not worry to die." Federico Lorca.

 

What remains? A purple garden?

Tattered garments, broken men.

Weeds and greed,

Magic you resurrected, once again,

Hands around your lover’s waist,

Spending time evading fate.

 Taste the brandy,

swill it round 

the azure ocean of your heart. 

Your justice was staying alive

Just one more...

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A waiting time

Not the usual undulations of night and day
But a locked down twilight, when time
Drifts away. A form of temporal Medusa
Hope turned to stone. Time splinters 
Points into the past, future, present.
Frozen in a moment of Covid negativity
Realising that every breath, movement,
Involves the risk of THE positive Covid test.
The only sure way to avoid the virus 
Is to die, to cease upon the mom...

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Revising the rain

(Only love can break your heart)

Translating the rain is a dangerous business,
In the past the priest or rabbi took on the mantle
Of expectation. But you knew from the very start
Which mountain range the rain came from.
Your languid, watery eyes can be deceiving in rain.
Fountains are rain corralled, water on show. I’m tempted
Into sleeping on your neck. A servitude of roses suffices.
...

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Lover

Coming downstairs slow and steady
Crinkled and wrinked with ruffled hair
I hold her dreams close to me –
Pause at the turning of the stairs–
Postpone eternity
Until I have drunk two strong coffees,
Smoked an imaginary cigarette,
Said good morning to those I love,
Who are now among the dead;
Recite a quiet antiphon in my muddled head.
Look out of the French windows
Into the garden she ha...

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Lost

When your heart is a barren desert,
Emptied by-a-silent-scream, with nothing
To look forward to, soul-wrought, emptied
By loss,  sleep is a lost fandango
Life a desultory, heart-wrenching place.
Wheels grind ever-onward, people seek
To avoid the clutches of dire despair
The solitary I reaches for an intelligence
That is no longer there, and I see myself,
Pathetically, grasping, at thin ai...

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Heaven

Two lean-faced men
With heavy stubble
Shuffle down the road
Mothers warn their children
To keep away.
One man falls down. flat
The other man, white cider on his breath,
Thirty-five, going on seventy, hairless head,
Staggers into the park
He has enough to finish it now.
Acrid smoke, heavy dew,
No teeth, sunken cheek
Clothes found in bins,
Tears salty, stumbling
He sat on the wet bench
...

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Paralysis

Paralysis is death. James Joyce, Dubliners

Paralysis occurs
When you cannot move
without everything tumbling down
around you.
Marriages crumble
Families disperse
Time freezes over a moment
That will reoccur, in your memory
Excavating the epics and rhapsodies
Of our lived  lives..
Removed from the fray.
The time of our birthday
Meets
The time of our deathday.
Stalagmites and stalac...

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After Virgil

From a very early age I had imbibed the opinion that it was every man's duty to do all that lay in his power to leave his country as good as he had found it.. William Cobbett

My native land – England – has gone from me
Shrouded in a so-called unity, called ‘diversity’
a shibboleth, as fake as those who preach it.
Our ravished land is no longer a king’s demesne,
But is now a poor, peculiar, ...

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Destitute

Bafflled how he came to be a pauper, he thought,

Tramp, hobo, undeserving poor, me!

An ex-serviceman, still with an upright back,

Thing is: he never really arrived home. Did he?. 

Not a real sort of family home; 

Belfast, The Falklands, Belize, Operation Desert Storm

Are with him every day.

Like many men who wore the uniform, Jim is reluctant to see a doctor

"I'll be reet" ...

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Premonition

We wake to the rumbling thunder of blood,
Pumping hearts, twisted hearts, this shadow and I
Squeeze into the silences of trees.
Now the dark lights of Christmastide afflict us,
Twilight memories drift, flux, flicker
In this breeze of time.
Penumbra-beginning, hologram-end, my friend,
Such pungent affirmations,
Whispered in the dark,
Slip so easily
Into generations of suffering:
Eyes lif...

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Dogs who love the rain

Happiness, a summer fleeting,
Gone, like sunshine after rain,
Misery, so-near-completing.
Winter’s grip remains.

.....

Death of friends leaves us diminished,
I fear we do not grasp at all.
How needy men just crave a respite,
Want the clocks to stop, is all.

......

Footsteps in the snow deceiving
Whiskey priests dream Magdalenas
Drunk at noon, asleep, forgetting,
Dig a grave in...

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Avoiding the Apocalypse


The moon was sad as only the moon can be.
Men in tears fleeing the nightmare of their years.
Some fellows dream that with your fingers
You can pluck and hold tightly
The calmness of flowers, the depth of a moment,
The completeness of a live birth.
Outside, white sobs slide into our ears.
Remembering the smile of our mother,
On the fortunate day of her first kiss.
The past is a magnet an...

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A Sweet May-day

...est in Arcadia ego...

This early morning air: pellucid, refreshingly soft

A time of hush, just before that cacaphony

Of hope that marks a sweet May dawn - the lifter

Of moods, the harbinger of hope, the visionary self. 

Filled with all the quiet majesty of an English breeze

Stirring the leafy canopy as the sun begins to 

Shadow, half-created dappled zephyrs blow.

Mistres...

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Anti-viral

A faint whiff of the anti-sceptic about the place,

Frankincense and myrrh are wishes out of place in the 

Silence, which enrols the mind on dashes into the future,

 - dashes to the past and do not last - sutures stitched

the wound and I arrived back discomforted,

Disheveled, palpitating; but certainly not relieved

of all the burdens of the present, I perceive  

Sweats in the n...

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A quiet disbelief in nothing

Come on

If not, cover his coffin,

Come on

If not, cover his coffin

My friend is dead!

......

To those who carry his coffin

There is a secret that is not in the oceans

Nor in the present, past or future.

For there was no flower in his heart.

Only love.

Plain and simple.

......

In these days of curiosity.

A tribute first to her who bore me.

.......

Bef...

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Infant mortality

The life of the world as it is now is not living,

It is a bad process of dying.

It doesn’t matter when we die, so long as we live fulfilling the deepest desire that is in us.

And a life which is a denial of the deepest desire is much worse than any death, it is a lie

I have drunk a lot of whiskey since you both died

And I can no longer hide

Behind this screen of anonymity.

Yes...

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DOGS

“Dogs are better than human beings
because they know, but do not tell.” Emily Dickinson

Yes the misery of keeping a dog
is his dying so soon.
To be a friend of a dog offers profound joy
To be with a dog when he dies
Offers profound sadness.
We learn so much from our dogs.
The coward man dies many times
The brave, true dog dies only the once.
But, to be sure,
if my friend had  lived fo...

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The Pharmacology of Shadow

When sadnesses besiege you:

At the dying of the light

And starlight illuminates

The mere ending of the night.

Will you tingle in the frosted air of the privilges of sight?

Starlight is a mirror, in the water of the eyes,

When humankind, finally, abandons its disguise.

The spin and whirl of hemlock

Help the witch and Wicca sway

Under the greensward

On this beautifully ...

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Charlie (2007 - 2020)

Charlie allowed death to overtake him today

He'd been slowing down anyway

The old ticker on the blink

Arthritis in his legs and more.

The old trooper staggered on.

Out with me on his final night,

Plodding through the spring grass:

Making our time last. 

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NEVER FORGIVE - NEVER FORGET

For two hundred and fifty years these interlopers

Have squandered our land, spread squalor everywhere,

Massacred the natural beauty of sea and air and land.

Europeans killed us for their sport,

They knew nothing of the sacred,

They spread their filth everywhere across America. 

Listen, now, to the ghost-dancers of the Souix

Chant their hatred of these fat white males 

Who o...

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1995

There is no wind blowing today

it is late April and the spring flowers

are showing their true colours

I have done little as the day fades

but this is the sort of day I like to keep

strongly felt, discrete.

 

The evening meal was a melee

children fighting for attention

as they do

but I find these days

astonishing

a new life is on its way

and I feel

so very ...

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Himalayan Greeks

 

Abstracted in Afghanistan

I pick cankers for a simple

Choose  a rhapsody in blue

Love lapis lazuli

and you.

I paint the Virgin Mary

With ultramarine pigment

Extracted from lapis lazuli

Only found in north-east Afghanistan

Where I am with the brave Kalash,

In their snow-capped mountains,

Of the Hindu Kush,

They have resisted assimilation into Islam for o...

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At Kathy's funeral

All those years of hope

Fitted, now, into a wooden six foot box.

From girlhood’s putting on

Of burdensome beauty

Into the chiffon-sixties of London town

Then Devon, and the farm.

And then confusion, the end of hope,

You were sliding down that slippery slope

Where, at last, the dreadful daylight starts

Of unkept promises, and broken hearts.

And, back, finally, to Chesh...

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A loving heart is truest wisdom

"Dead, your Majesty. Dead, my lords and gentlemen. Dead, right reverends and wrong reverends of every order. Dead, men and women, born with heavenly compassion in your hearts. And dying thus around us every day." Bleak House, Ch.XLVII, ‘Charlie Dickens

 

Opinions can be ignored, mocked,
That’s fair enough – satirists’d be buggered –
Otherwise
and, of course,
No-one has the right not to b...

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Lightning and Trees

Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

Think you’re escaping and run into yourself.
Longest way round is the shortest way home.
Joyce, Ulysses

T’was the night before Christmas,
Or Easter or Whitsun, any Christian festival. 
It was dark and cold and dreary.
Dark, black night.
For lettered and unlettered alike.
Fearing the roaring of the skies,
Trembling at the dying of the light;
Fear s...

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Austerity

‘Falling life expectancy in the poorest communities is a deeply worrying indicator of the state of our nation’s health, and shows that we are leaving the most vulnerable out of the collective gain’ Independent, 28.11.18

 

What's this area got?
Not a lot of jobs, or prospects, or money
There's no des-res for burnt out
City execs round here.
But there is plenty of poverty, and plenty of fe...

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